Exile: Sarah Harrison On Paying The Price For Helping Edward Snowden
from the journalist-or-terrorist? dept
One of the unsung heroines of the Snowden story is Sarah Harrison. A statement she published on WikiLeaks in November 2013 describes her role as follows:
As a journalist I have spent the last four months with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and arrived in Germany over the weekend. I worked in Hong Kong as part of the WikiLeaks team that brokered a number of asylum offers for Snowden and negotiated his safe exit from Hong Kong to take up his legal right to seek asylum. I was travelling with him on our way to Latin America when the United States revoked his passport, stranding him in Russia. For the next 39 days I remained with him in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where I assisted in his legal application to 21 countries for asylum, including Germany, successfully securing his asylum in Russia despite substantial pressure by the United States. I then remained with him until our team was confident that he had established himself and was free from the interference of any government.
Harrison has now written a fine piece for The Guardian about the consequences for her of providing support to Snowden and WikiLeaks:
I cannot return to England, my country, because of my journalistic work with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and at WikiLeaks. There are things I feel I cannot even write. For instance, if I were to say that I hoped my work at WikiLeaks would change government behaviour, this journalistic work could be considered a crime under the UK Terrorism Act of 2000.
She points out that she is not alone in suffering from the UK government's absurdly broad definition of "terrorism": Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda was detained for nine hours at London's Heathrow airport, and Snowden's lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, was interrogated there too. But the knock-on effects for journalism in the UK are particularly serious:
The act gives a definition of terrorism as an act or threat "designed to influence the government", that "is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause" and that would pose a "serious risk" to the health or safety of a section of the public. UK government officials have continually asserted that this risk is present with the disclosure of any "classified" document.
Elsewhere the act says "the government" means the government of any country -- including the US. Britain has used this act to open a terrorism investigation relating to Snowden and the journalists who worked with him, and as a pretext to enter the Guardian's offices and demand the destruction of their Snowden-related hard drives. Britain is turning into a country that can't tell its terrorists from its journalists.
If Britain is going to investigate journalists as terrorists take and destroy our documents, force us to give up passwords and answer questions -- how can we be sure we can protect our sources? But this precedent is now set; no journalist can be certain that if they leave, enter or transit through the UK this will not happen to them.
One likely consequence of this is that international journalists will avoid passing through the UK on the way to their final destinations. More seriously, they may be unwilling to enter the UK to visit. Sadly, given the UK's increasingly besmirched reputation as a beacon of civilization with a free and effective press, that's likely to be viewed by the government there as more of a feature than a bug.